Parents raise concerns as crowded Kenyan schools re-open after coronavirus shutdown
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NAIROBI - Hundreds of children formed an orderly queue that snaked through Nairobi’s biggest slum Kibera on Monday, waiting to enter classrooms for the first time since March, when the government closed schools after Kenya reported its first Covid-19 case.
The country is the last in East Africa to fully reopen its schools. Children in grades four, eight and 12 returned to class in October so they could prepare for exams postponed amid the pandemic.
The World Health Organization and the UN children’s agency UNICEF say prolonged school closures due to Covid-19 present many risks for children in poor countries. Higher rates of teenage pregnancy, poor nutrition, and permanent drop outs from school are among the dangers.
Most boys and girls wore masks as they stood outside the Olympic Primary School’s gates, waiting their turn as school officials took temperatures and squirted hand sanitiser into their palms.
“The government has said our children must go, but they are not safe according to how I see it,” said 54-year-old parent Maurice Oduor, questioning how social distancing can be practised with about 100 students squeeze into each room.
“There are no classrooms built and no desks added here,” he added.
When the children sat down for class, they were shoulder to shoulder, three at a desk, as they were before the pandemic.
School administrators and teachers told Reuters they were not authorised to speak to press.
The government has tried to ensure the safety of students and teachers by distributing more than half a million desks to schools and supplies of soap, Education Minister George Magoha said on Sunday.